The MSc in Technology Management Study Tour to Israel: Blogs from the Participants (Updating!)
Things that impressed the participants the most, new experiences and business tools, the most interesting business people they met – everything about the study tour of MS in Technology Management to Israel is here.
Almost half of Intel employees are involved in volunteer work
Our next destination was Intel. By the way, you find a lot of immigrants from Ukraine there. All of them tried to speak Ukrainian with us and demonstrated their warm attitude to our country. Meeting them was a highly stimulating experience that made our hearts swell with national pride.
For example, we met Alla Svidler who comes from Zaporizhzhia. She studied at the Technion and now works for Intel. Her field of expertise is on-chip debugging, but she doesn’t work as a manager. She is employed as an individual contributor, without being affiliated with any specific team. It is one of Intel’s peculiarities, which allows introverts to create innovation in a way preferable to them. But one must deserve this privilege!
Another featured approach is known as ‘dungeon’. It is a special work plan (more like a hackathon) to unlock people’s potential for accelerated problem-solving.
Intel highly values the mutual support among its staff members, which is displayed mainly on an informal level. Another core value is people who stay with the company during tough times. Intel has an internal venture community which invests in the promising ideas of its employees, but the company reserves all IP (intellectual property) rights.
Intel also invests a lot of money in children’s education, especially in math, in order to prepare the next generation. Volunteering is the key to success and the best investment in the future of the company and its staff. 42% of Intel employees are involved as volunteers in various social projects.
Visits to Technion and inhabited desert
How to build successful strategic alliances and what’s the impact of national culture on creativity and innovation?
The participants of the international study tour to Israel had a chance to get answers to these questions from Prof. Dovev Lavie and Prof. Miriam Erez during their visit to the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, one of the world’s top ten science and technology research universities.
They also visited a desert. Ben-Gurion University in the Negev desert was founded in the city of Beersheba and became one of the leading cyber security hubs globally. In the next few years, all cyber security units of the Israel Defense Forces will be relocated there.
March 16Failed interview at Microsoft gives start to business
Yosi Taguri is a serial entrepreneur who started doing business because of a failed interview at Microsoft. Now he works on the startup Yallo that has recently raised 8 million dollars. Yallo provides a VoIP solution that makes instant transcription of telephone conversations and can connect to CRM or be synchronized with other applications.
The company has a great product and is currently striving to define a proper marketing approach to explain to customers why they need Yallo.
Some fresh ideas from Yosi:
- Don't build your business only on an idea.
- If you are doing business only for money, don't do it!
- I care about people who care about what they do. I don't care about your SAT or IQ score.
- I fire stupid people, lazy people, and people who don't enjoy what they do.
- If you want to be private nowadays, take a submarine, go underwater, and never come back.
Hi-tech service for plants!
We had an agro marathon visiting Israeli companies that are global leaders in agro-technologies. It’s high time for the 2nd agro revolution: to ‘hear’ the needs of plants and support them 24/7.
AgroWebLab is an agriculture company founded in 2012. The company develops, installs, and supports electronic devices for agribusiness.
The main advantages that company offers to its clients include:
- highly developed genetics;
- a short period of vegetation;
- a variety of plants that require less water;
- disease resilience;
- EuroGAP certification.
AgroWebLab has a staff of 17 in Israel (including a former NASA employee born in Ukraine) and it is planning to open a new office in China this year. It also has ambitious plans to become a global company in the near future.
The second company we visited was AutoAgronom. The company was bought out by a Chinese conglomerate but kept its R&D center in Kibbutz Ramat Hashofet.
AutoAgronom designs solutions to the following problems:
- how much to irrigate;
- when to irrigate;
- how much to fertilize;
- when to fertilize;
- what is the best fertilizer.
The company guarantees a 30% reduction of water use and 40% fewer fertilizers for irrigation. Also, you can expect at least a 5% increase in crop yields with AutoAgronom.
The third company was AGAM Advanced Agronomy. It is a company that provides services for the optimization of agriculture processes.
- What they do:
- GIS (Geographical Information Systems);
- Remote Sensing (image processing);
- Soil and Plants Samplings;
- VRA/VRT (variable-rate applications/ technologies).
The company of 5 employees is very inspired by the ‘exit’ they made only last week! Now they are going to work with 1,000 distributors in more than 100 countries (it's an R&D team of only 5 people).
Excellent motivation for startups, isn’t it?
By Lyubomyr Lyadyk
Device for restoring vision
The MSc in Technology Management study tour participants were hosted by a company called Nano Retina, which develops a nano-retina for the visually impaired! As developers say, it can take them up to 7-10 years to promote the idea and tap into the market. Nano Retina is in the middle of the road now, at the preliminary testing stage.
Nano Retina has two main products: the Nano Retina implant and special eyeglasses. The implant is inserted into the eye in a very easy and painless way and is supported by a set of eyeglasses equipped with a battery that could be charged through USB.
The product is intended to restore the sight of people with the damaged retina. The intersection of electronics and biotechnology nurturing this product is really exciting!
Many good specialists in different areas moved to Israel, which created a fertile ground for implementing multi-disciplinary projects.
As Chan Kim says (Blue Ocean Strategy), all innovations occur at the intersection of different fields.
Here are some quotes from James, Director of Nano Retina:
- “There are two core values of high tech: men and patents.”
- “If there is a problem in the world and you have a unique solution, it automatically provides you with high margins.”
- “Developing our channels of distribution requires huge amounts of money.”
- “There is a phenomenon that I call ‘the Israeli disease’: focus only on R&D and fast market exit. Quickly, quickly – it's our second nature, which can be explained by a relatively young age of our economy.”
Get a customer success manager early
Why is it important for startups to have customer-oriented people? This and other related questions were discussed with Chilik Hochberg, Head of Customer Success in an Israeli startup called BioCatch (a company that develops behavioral biometrics, authentication and malware detection solutions for mobile and web applications).
Nowadays a lot of startups focus on R&D and product marketing leaving the customer success part unaddressed. But even if your startup doesn't really have money to hire a dedicated person to take care of the successful use of your product by customers, as an owner you'd better make sure that your developers are customer-facing because at the end of the day we're all in sales now.
Imagine a developer who can’t explain in simple words what your product does. Or even better, imagine a developer who thinks that the client asks silly questions – what message about your company would that communicate to the customer? So next time your people speak to clients, make sure they understand what ‘patience’ means, are able to explain in the business language what problem your product solves, and understand that “there is no such thing as a silly question”.
It's even better if you have a customer success manager from the very moment you start selling your product. Usually people delegate this responsibility to account managers or sales, but it doesn’t always work because the task of a sales person is to sell a product or solution and in most cases they don't care how it is used by customers afterwards and whether customers are satisfied with it. The next time a sales person contacts your customer is when they need to renew the contract, so they don't really know what happens in the period between the signing of the contract and its renewal.
As an owner you should think of incorporating some means of backward communication and signaling into your product so that you know whether the user is still active and how s/he is doing. It's also more important for a startup to keep an eye on customer satisfaction than to focus on getting new customers as finding new customers requires more effort than retaining existing ones.
At BioCatch they care about customer success a lot. They have a dedicated person who focuses on creating customer success in the organization. They work with developers to make sure they treat clients well. They hire people who're not only smart but also open minded and customer-facing. They actually hold a dialog with their clients throughout the entire cycle – from pilot project implementation to product purchase and use. All these factors, in addition to a great product, of course, make them competitive players on the market and have enabled them to provide their solutions to 10 biggest banks worldwide with a 30 million user base!
I believe that all the participants of the study tour to Israel are thankful to Chilik for coming late after work and sharing his hands-on experience with them!
By Alexander Barinov
Medical R&D company in Keysaria, Israel, impresses MSc in Technology Management participants
One of the most interesting business experiences of the study tour to Israel as part of the MS in Technology Management program was a visit to ConTIPI, a company founded by gynecologists Dr. Elan Ziv and Zeev Bronfeld. The company conducts R&D and develops disruptive technologies aimed at disposable and non-invasive solutions for women with various Pelvic Floor Disorders, which otherwise could be solved only surgically. It is a very good example of a healthcare industry startup from Israel.
The company’s history began in 2002. Clinical studies were conducted throughout 2003-2005 and ConTIPI got FDA approved in 2006. In 2010, the company was approached by P&G and leased its product to the latter, but this cooperation was not successful. Later on, ConTIPI terminated the lease agreement and sold full IP rights to its unique product to Kimberly-Clark for 98 million USD (!!!). Now the company is working on two new products of a similar nature.
There are a few things that I personally find interesting in this story:
- ConTIPI was a small startup (up to 10 people) that was accepted by LN Innovative Technologies, a hi-tech Haifa-based incubator. Their first product took them around 10 years: from research and development to selling the product. As part of an incubator, a startup receives a lot of experience, knowledge, and help. All the decisions were made collaboratively (by the startup founder and the incubator head). Hard effort and sound advice really helped build a business, open all the closed doors, raise the necessary capital, and become more interesting to investors.
- Then ConTIPI grew into a strong company (still 10 people) that decided to focus only on R&D (they did not get into the business of packaging, marketing, and distributing their products on purpose) with a continuous start-up business model. By this I mean that they gained experience that now allows them to shorten the time needed to develop a new product and make an exit with it (sell the product). If it took them around 10 years to make a successful exit with the fist product, it is expected that the second product will take only 3 years. After the 2nd product is sold, there is a plan to work on another product.
- ConTIPI had two different models they used with P&G and Kimberly-Clark. ConTIPI was acquired by Procter & Gamble for $100 million, but the IP actually remained in Israel, while with Kimberly Clack, they sold the complete product with all certificates and patents. The national law in Israel is built in a way that keeps IP inside the country. Since ConTIPI developed in an incubator, they received government investment. If the actual IP (basically the product as a whole) is sold to a company in another country, there is a requirement to pay 6 times more than the original investment from the government to cover the risk of taking away possible working places associated with keeping this business in the country. This was an interesting experience for the company, so with their 2nd and 3rd product lines, they are not involving any government money and will work only with private investment funds.
- There is a conclusion to be drawn from this story: going into mass production and trying to enter the global market with your product imply a different strategy. The company chose the continuous start-up business model. There is a whole array of reasons why this model still remains unchanged. First, there is no or little experience in product marketing, sales, and distribution (when P&G and KC basically own the market). Second, ConTIPI has very limited production capabilities. They were able to produce only 40,000 devices per year in 3 shifts within the company, while KC had 8 product development lines that simultaneously yielded 30 million devices. Third (and most important), this was not the company’s calling. ConTIPI likes developing new things that help the world, and they are good at it. Why do something different then?
- Kinda, ‘follow your calling’ notion…
P.S. It is curious that 1 product may require around 87 different patents, really.
By Iryna Paprotska
Israeli techno incubators
Our acquaintance with Israeli techno incubators started with Klara Oren. Not only is she an Israeli air force major, mathematician, and a dapper grandmother to 7 grandchildren, but Klara also appears to be the first and only female founder and CEO of one (and the last!) of 26 Israeli techno incubators, LN Techno Incubator in Haifa.
Nowadays the 26 techno incubators in Israel are known as places that help create and grow successful startups. Israel is proudly reported to be a nation with a 35% success rate of startups, whereas Klara’s incubator generated an even higher, 40%, success rate! That becomes even more amazing when you learn that originally, back in the 1990s, techno incubators were mostly institutionalized to support new immigrants and national minorities.
Let's start it up!
First and foremost, having the desire in your heart and the idea in your mind to help Israel, you need money for R&D and business development. You can try to obtain a grant from the government or you can approach a techno incubator for potential budgeting.
How does it differ?
An incubator will help you create a very detailed budget/ plan and facilitate the obtaining of 85% from the State of Israel and 15% from the incubator. To qualify, you need to match three criteria: 1. Prove the innovative character of your technology/ solution. 2. Prove that there’s a need for your solution and that it will have the consumer/ market. 3. Have an entrepreneur-type personality (ability to lead/work in a team, ability to give in, e.g. agree to hire a CEO for your company if needed, etc.)
Sounds easy, is it really?
At the end of the day, it will either work out or fail. It is even easier in case of the latter – you are not supposed to return the money to the government. If your company is a success, you make 3% royalty payments from your sales until you return the invested 85%.
No, it is not easy to startup. But the truth is that Israel has initiated 6,000 startups – a Startup Nation, indeed! My question was: Where does innovation have its origins? Enthusiastic people inspired by technological progress? Yes. Financial support from the government? Absolutely! A desire to help Israel prosper? Always. A wish to become famous and rich? Why not? Dense concentration of scientifically-minded people in techno incubators? Exactly so.
By Svitlana Bondar